This letter is being written to inform the public of the unfolding events since my presentation to the Lands Commission of Inquiry (CoI) pertaining to lands at Kingelly, a village bought by my great-great-great-great grandfather Cudjoe McPherson, a man who came from slavery. Since my appearance, members of a group, who are being represented by Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall, have too appeared before the commission, with claims made by some that they have transport for the land they are occupying, dating back to the period of slavery and even before it was bought.
Kingelly was bought in the 1840s and transported in 1850 to Cudjoe, yet persons claim residency for over 200 years, including possession of transport, when slavery ended in 1838, i.e. 179 years ago. Presently in my possession are copies of a notice given to the Seafield/Tempe Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) to commence surveys on lands not on behalf of Cudjoe’s heirs, but on behalf of people who Nandlall is representing and claimed to have transport for the land.
One needs to ask why are these persons spending money to survey lands they already said they have transports for? Or is it a case where they are moving to further encroach on land they do not own? Three weeks ago a similar attempt was made and halted by the NDC since this Local Authority’s rules were not followed. The Sunday following the incident myself and four relatives journeyed to the village.
The opportunity was taken to walk through the village, meet the people and apprise them of the McPhersons’ position, as I did prior to the matter being placed before the commission. Villagers shared engagement with us and some sought to find out what the McPhersons want in terms of settlement, others said they respect that we have to do what we have to do, and others requested if they can be favourably considered to continue living in the village. To the varied views there was commitment to look at the matter within the context of the law, the commission’s recommendations, and relationships established over the years upon consultation and agreement with the other heirs of Cudjoe.
There was and remains a noted exception to this relationship and issue, in the person of a leading PPP activist who has illegally occupied a part of our land since the 1960s or early 1970s. When he was approached, with my hand outreached to him, he said ‘me nah shake black man hand ayuh dese nah people.” In response, I said to him “you will have to deal with us, whether you consider us animal or people.”
Villagers have advised me that the said man, who is also a PPP councillor, during the recent flood when he was approached on the issue of relief, told them “me nah do nothing for black man, ayuh vote for Granger, ayuh tek ayuh cup and drink da wata wah in dah trench.” They got no representation from him and had to journey to Yeovil to speak with Member of Parliament Jennifer Wade, who intervened on their behalf.
To ignore or suppress the telling of these stories is to enable discrimination and further division in this society, because where persons are denied the right to articulate what’s occurring around and to them, even growth and development can never occur. As an aside, this claim I am pursuing started during the generation of Julia Thompson, my grandmother, who was Cudjoe’s great granddaughter, and the daughter of Mathilda McPherson, the granddaughter of Cudjoe.
Since the issue of Kingelly has resurfaced it is instructive to note the continued effort to legitimately resolve this matter has attracted the attention, involvement, and anger of the PPP hierarchy in Freedom House. Bharrat Jagdeo not only found it worthy to angrily address the matter at his press conference, he made the claim that I, Lincoln Lewis, am claiming a whole village. Nandlall, as an attorney-at-law and though entitled to represent any person or group, in this matter based on the position taken by Jagdeo and the PPP person in the village, I am inclined to believe his representation is that of making a political statement.
This opportunity is being taken to inform society that even as the commission is yet to make public its findings, including recommendations, Cudjoe’s heirs are seeing a repetition of the 1960s.
I close by saying that once there is breath in my body I shall prosecute this matter in my life time. I am convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the other heirs of Cudjoe are equally committed. We shall not relent and we shall remain steadfast.
A copy of this letter is being forwarded to the Commission of Inquiry.